My favorite part of Namibia is its most remote – the Kunene region in the far northwest part of the country. This is a place where high sand dunes meet rough, rugged mountains; where small bands of gemsbok roam wide, barren valleys; where the ultra-traditional Himba people roam the dusty land with their cattle; and where the region’s namesake river, flows almost unbelievably between dune and mountains, forming the border between Namibia and Angola.
My favorite way to get to the Kunene region is by plane as it cuts days of driving down to a few hours of flying and provides fantastic views of scenery such as Namibia’s highest peak, Brandberg Mountain (also known as Fire Mountain), and vast desert landscapes such as Hartmann’s Valley. If you fly from Swakopmund, you can also add shipwrecks and seal colonies along the Skeleton Coast. Once there, you’ll be sure to feel like you are as far away from anything while still being on earth.
On a recent visit our group dubbed it “definitely middle of nowhere” but they definitely loved it. We stayed at wonderful Serra Cafema, a casually luxurious Wilderness Safaris camp set along the Kunene River. The camp has nine spacious and comfortable tents with huge bedrooms, indoor/outdoor showers, comfortable decks and more. The lounge and dining areas overlook the river and you can throw your breadcrumbs over the side to feed the numerous fish below. There are also crocodiles there, so swimming is not recommended.
Navigating the river by motorboat definitely is recommended and we enjoyed watching our first kill of the safari (an African darter caught a 7 inch fish which it barely was able to choke down after a 15-minute struggle. We saw local people, crocodiles and many bird species. Also recommended are fishing, ATV tours on the dunes and road; Himba cultural visits and game viewing by car. This is in addition to walks along the dunes when it’s not too hot, but watch out for local baboons moving from the river edge to the caves in the late afternoon!
Special note: The Himba people, famous because of their traditional pastoralist lifestyle and the fact that their women cover themselves with a combination of butter fat and red ochre. When combined with intricate hairstyles, high cheek bones, and traditional garb with no tops, you get a very distinctive look. The Himba are open to cultural visits for a price, and are polite although not overly friendly. During a visit, make sure to ask them about their life in addition to getting their pictures.
At night, the stars shine brightly and abundantly and the food, whether served in the dining room or in one of the special picnic sites used by the camp, is delicious. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. All in all, I can’t think of a bad thing to say about it except that it’s so far from anything. But, I guess that’s why I like the “middle of nowhere.”